As baby boomer generation enters old age, U.S. elderly population will increase substantially and comprise a larger percentage of the general population over the next 40 years.
The U.S. Census Bureau released two reports this week that detail projections for the age structure of the population by 2050. The most notable projection is a near doubling of the nation’s 65-and-older population, which will grow from 43.1 million in 2012 to an expected 83.7 million by the year 2050. Experts attribute a large contribution to the growth of the elderly population to the aging of the baby boomer generation consisting of individuals born in the U.S. between mid-1946 and mid-1964.
The baby boomers began hitting 65 in 2011 and will drive up the proportion of elderly to an estimated 21 percent of the total population in 2050, according to one report titled An Aging Nation: The Older Population in the United States. Because of the major contribution to the shift in population age structure, Bureau officials looked specifically at the baby boomer population and present their findings in a second report titled The Baby Boom Cohort in the United States: 2012 to 2060. Both reports draw conclusions and make predictions based 2012 national projections.
“The United States is projected to age significantly over this period, with 20 percent of its population age 65 and over by 2030,” said Jennifer Ortman, chief of the Census Bureau’s Population Projections Branch. “Changes in the age structure of the U.S. population will have implications for health care services and providers, national and local policymakers, and businesses seeking to anticipate the influence that this population may have on their services, family structure and the American landscape.”
A growing retiree population presents challenges as the population proportion that makes up the work force struggles to produce enough wealth to support a health care-intensive population that not only does not work but also, in most cases, draws pensions, social security, and Medicare benefits. Even though mortality will begin to shrink the baby boomer generation over the next several decades, experts cite trends in fertility, mortality, and international migration that will likely contribute to the maintenance of a large elderly population segment. Even so, the U.S. will in 2050 still be one of the younger populations among the developed nations.